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MotoGP 2022: Quartararo singled out as the man to beat in Spain

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Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), April 29 (IANS) Fresh from a first MotoGP win of 2022 last weekend, all eyes will be on defending champion Fabio Quartararo when action shifts to the Grand Prix of Spain this weekend.

Yamaha’s reigning World Champion arrives at a circuit he’s dominated at in the past two years with back-to-back wins in 2020 before his hopes of a hat-trick were dashed in 2021. There’s no doubting he’s the man to beat, but according to his nearest title rivals, they are expecting a close fight.

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Quartararo was untouchable in Jerez in 2020 and 2021. He won both races two years ago by a combined margin of 10.1 seconds, and he was already edging towards being two seconds clear of Jack Miller before arm pump struck last season.

The Frenchman was leading the Jerez race comfortably in 2021 when suddenly his pace began to fade around the halfway point, dropping to 13th place at the finish.

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Quartararo, who was leading the championship ahead of the Jerez weekend, had undergone arm-pump surgery back in 2019 but said it was the first time he had been affected by it at the Spanish circuit.

So does he feel he has some unfinished business to deliver this weekend?

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“Payback? I will say no,” stated the defending World Champion. “Because basically, it was not an issue with the bike, it was an issue from my side. I would say that I am arriving much more prepared. The surgery I had last year was perfect, so, of course, I feel we can go super-fast but we need to work on a normal weekend. I feel we have the potential to fight for the victory but we need to do it step-by-step, first Friday and then we will see our speed.

“It was an important moment,” replied Quartararo when asked about his first premier class victory since Silverstone last year. “Straight away I was able to be fast. In the race to make a 39.4 on Lap 3 was quite important. Of course, to fight for the victory after the tough start to the season is always great, and it’s even greater when you have back-to-back races, and I am at one of my favourite tracks.”

Arguably the two men most likely to stop the factory Yamaha rider from going back-to-back are Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing). The pair are breathing down Quartararo’s neck in the title chase and are hoping to sneak clear of the Frenchman at what they believe will be an incredibly close and competitive Spanish Grand Prix.

“We are at a track that I really like,” said Rins, now tied on points with Quartararo in the World Championship. “Last year, we had a small crash at Turn 6, so I did the race with just one wing. The pace was not that bad, so let’s see. Let’s see what awaits us this weekend and let’s try to do the same as last weekend. This is one of the tracks that a lot of riders will be fast at. It’s the first Spanish GP, so it will be difficult. Also, the level that we have in MotoGP is high this year.”

Espargaro is equally determined, especially as he will be at a circuit where he was able to finish just five seconds away from the eventual race winner in 2021. At that time, it was the closest Aprilia have ever been to a MotoGP race winner meaning, given the increased performance from this year’s RS-GP, the 32-year-old is brimming with confidence.

Following what seemed like a positive pre-season, many predictions ahead of Qatar pointed toward Honda finding some of their former glory. However, the Repsol Honda Team has struggled in the opening five rounds of the year with Marc Marquez stating the need for change.

The new RC213V was aimed at giving HRC’s riders the rear grip it has badly lacked over recent years. But that design change has, as a result, taken away Marquez’s biggest strength: braking. Now unable to attack corners in a ‘V’ shape, Marquez is missing some magic.

“It’s true that it’s a bike that in big circuits it’s working really well like we saw in pre-season in Malaysia and then in Qatar. But as soon as we arrive at a small circuit and you need to turn in a short time, that is where we struggle a lot. That’s where we need to understand some more,” the Spaniard said about Honda’s issues in Thursday’s press conference.

“The solution is close or far? We don’t know, we don’t know. The potential is there. I believe the potential is there. But we need to find a way how to take profit from that potential.”

–IANS

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